Why don’t Cowboys have a proven veteran behind Dak Prescott?

USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Cowboys signed Andy Dalton to serve as the backup to Dak Prescott. As of Week Five, the Cowboys needed Dalton’s services.

This year, the Cowboys have no veteran presence behind Prescott. Why, only 20 days after from their first regular-season game of 2021, do the Cowboys not have one?

The Cowboys have yet to elaborate on the decision-making process, one that will become particularly important in the event Prescott can’t return from a shoulder strain for Week One and/or gets injured during the season. Whatever the realistic expectations for the Cowboys this season, the bar plunges much lower if the quarterback is Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci, or Cooper Rush.

Maybe the Cowboys don’t have the money in the budget for a veteran. With Prescott getting $40 million per year on his new deal, there’s not much cap space left for others at the position. That said, Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew has a salary of only $850,000 in 2021 — $70,000 less than Gilbert’s base pay.

Minshew would make a ton of sense as a clear upgrade over Gilbert, DiNucci, and Rush. But then there’s the question of whether it will really make much of a difference if it’s Minshew or one of the options currently on the roster. Dalton, who led the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances to start his career, went 4-5 as the starter in 2020. How much better would Minshew fair? There’s a good chance that, whatever it is, it won’t be good enough.

Maybe the simple reality is that, once the starting quarterback goes down, the Cowboys are screwed and it doesn’t matter who takes the starter’s place. Consider this excerpt from Ron Jaworski’s The Games That Changed The Game, regarding a meeting that he and Jon Gruden once had before a Monday night game involving the Colts during the Peyton Manning era.

“As we watched, we were surprised to see Manning taking virtually all the reps in the session,” Jaworski wrote. “Jon [Gruden] asked Tom [Moore, the Colts offensive coordinator,] why he wasn’t giving some snaps to Peyton’s backups. . . . He looked at us both in the eye, paused for a moment, then said in that gravelly voice of his, ‘Fellas, if 18 goes down, we’re f–ked.  And we don’t practice f–ked.”

The late Ted Thompson, G.M. of the Packers when Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy ran the team in Green Bay, had a different reason for not having a competent backup behind a franchise quarterback.

“You make sure you have so many of every position, given the limitations of a 53-man roster,” Thompson said in 2013. “But quite frankly, you never think about your better players ever getting hurt. If you think that way, you might jinx it. It might happen. Literally, you don’t think about it. It’s a place where you never tread.”

It’s unclear whether the Cowboys tread in that place for 2021. They should at least entertain the possibility, even if the ultimate conclusion is that, without Dak, they should put their head between their legs and kiss their ass goodbye.

16 responses to “Why don’t Cowboys have a proven veteran behind Dak Prescott?

  1. Maybe factor in that Gilbert was with the team last year and is an (unproven) seven year veteran? He’s not wet behind the ears and he at least knows the system; how much better would the team get if it dropped in an available, more proven QB who wouldn’t know the system and plays? As for Minshew, it isn’t as if the Jaguars are looking to give him away. Recall that Dallas added Dalton last year not because it made notable investment in a premium backup QB, but because Dalton was both a free agent and willing to sign for cheap. Surely, if such an option had been out there again Dallas would have jumped all over it.

  2. Dalton was 4-5 as a starter with the Cowboys last season. What was Dak’s record last season? 2-3! So, Prescott for all his stat padding didn’t do any better than Dalton. The defense was terrible, so neither Prescott or Dalton got much help. The offensive line broke down as well. Minshew would be a huge upgrade as the backup QB.

  3. Lol, Tom Moore have you seen the scrubs we have lol… Yeah when your star goes down, may as well wrap it up B.

  4. … once the starting quarterback goes down, the Cowboys are screwed and it doesn’t matter who…

    The Cowboys are screwed as long as Jerruh’s GM.

  5. Stars and scrubs have been the Cowboy way for decades. Overpay stars and there is no money for depth at many positions. When a star QB goes down, a competent backup can win enough games to keep a team in contention until the star recovers.

  6. It seems like the going thought is that if he goes down they’re screwed, insinuating he’s out for the year. What if he sustains an injury that only puts him out a few weeks but can return? The NFC East is tight every year (lately because they all suck) so 2-1 or 1-2 vs 0-3 over a 3 week span could make or break their playoff chances. I would think that they’ll be watching the waiver wire closely but I think it would be worth it to trade a low pick for a vet (Nick Foles?)

  7. Why should they trade for someone when a cheap alternative is bound to be available once rosters are cut down?

  8. They had Dalton last year, who was described at times as the best backup in the league. How much of a difference did it make? Granted there were other significant injuries but is Minshew going to win a bunch more games than Gilbert? And at what cost? Draft picks?

    It’s not a great situation but it’s not something I would be too worried about art this point.

  9. If the Cowboys expect to be good this year, then it would be smart to have a good backup QB. The fact that they do not may signal their expectations.

  10. nfloracle says:
    August 20, 2021 at 12:05 pm
    … once the starting quarterback goes down, the Cowboys are screwed and it doesn’t matter who…

    The Cowboys are screwed as long as Jerruh’s GM.
    —————————————————–

    Jerry is the GM in title only… Stephen Jones and Will McClay run that team, and to be honest, they have done a damn good job over the past 5 years, with the exception of letting McCarthy bring in his buddy as DC last year, but that problem has been fixed. You Cowboys haters are gonna be in for a rough season.

  11. if there was a great low priced backup qb out there, they would already be signed. there aren’t even 32 great starters. gg has been ok, i don’t mind rolling with him

  12. Jerry is the GM in title only… Stephen Jones and Will McClay run that team, and to be honest, they have done a damn good job over the past 5 years, with the exception of letting McCarthy bring in his buddy as DC last year, but that problem has been fixed. You Cowboys haters are gonna be in for a rough season.

    No offense but, I had to laugh at the delusional thoughts of this Cowboy’s fan. Jerry runs the team , he is terrible at it, and has been. Here’s some proof. The Cowboy’s waited too long to sign Dak Prescott and over paid for him and Zeke Elliot, so there is no money left for other talent. Running backs are a dime a dozen any more and unfortunately for the Cowboy’s Jerry is still mentally living in the Emmitt Smith era as his comfort zone. There is this for an upside though, Cowboy’s fans should be happy they play in such a weak division, as they could make the playoffs with a losing record.

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